It is no secret that the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) project has grown on a global scale, with BHL projects springing up in Europe, China, Australia, Brazil, and Egypt. Many of our new partners rely of the experience of BHL-U.S., as the original BHL project has come to be known, for insight and suggestions. One such partner is BHL-Europe, and a recent BHL-E meeting in London proved to be a valuable opportunity to not only allow our European partners to gather and discuss various technical and workflow issues, but also to allow representatives from BHL-U.S. to provide input based on our experience. With this intent, Bianca Crowley and Grace Costantino, Smithsonian librarians devoted full-time to BHL, traveled to London for the latest BHL-Europe meeting on December 1-3, 2010. The main subjects comprising this recent meeting were workflow, technical issues and portal development, and the Global References Index to Biodiversity, also known as the GRIB. The intent of the GRIB is to serve as a single point of access to all biodiversity bibliographic records held within the catalogs of the various BHL partners, which will in turn link to digitized versions of the content. Staff are hopeful, though, that the GRIB can also function as a selection and de-duplication tool for BHL, allowing institutions to indicate which items they wish to scan while also providing digitization status information.
A wish to contribute to the development of the GRIB by providing insight into the workflow management tools currently used by BHL-U.S. was the main purpose for Bianca and Grace’s involvement in the meetings. By explaining how staff currently use the many tools necessary for scanning workflow in the U.S., and what specific tasks staff need a master workflow management tool to address, BHL-E was able to understand the requirements of their partners across the Atlantic, and development of the GRIB was positively impacted by the conversations. BHL-E staff were appreciative of the viewpoint offered by their American colleagues, particularly because BHL-E has not begun scanning on a massive scale, as BHL-U.S. has.
The meetings were a productive exercise in communication and collaboration, and served as an excellent opportunity to get to know colleagues that, until the meeting, were known only through emails and occasional Skype calls. And for the Libraries staff, the benefits extend beyond simply examining ways to improve the BHL, for this meeting proved an excellent opportunity to develop the skills necessary to interact on a diverse project occurring at a global level. As libraries become less localized with the advent of the digital era, it is important to understand that the libraries of this millennium serve a population that is much more far-reaching than the city or even the country in which the institution is located. To successfully advance into the digital era, and firmly integrate the use of the library into everyday life, librarians must learn how to collaborate globally to reach users when and where they are needed. The BHL is a valuable tool to help broaden the understanding of today’s library, a fact for which this Smithsonian librarian is extremely grateful.
Image: Libraries/BHL staff Grace Costantino and Bianca Crowley (left) participating in a BHL-E meeting about the Global References Index to Biodiversity (GRIB)